Mother Game is a surprising gem of the season. A drama that I initially took no interest in has turned out to be probably my favorite of the season. I admit I haven’t watched Dr Rintaro, I’m Home, Algernon and the other ‘more famous’ dramas, but this particular drama is the only one I chased, besides Tennou no Ryouriban (another highly recommended drama).
I have a weak spot for family dramas so that’s probably why I’ve taken a liking for Mother Game. People often have this impression that the genre ‘drama’ will be quite cheesy and generic with overused ideas. I won’t refute the fact that this drama is full of those, but still, I love it. Maybe it’s because of the nature of the show, not exactly depressing and managed a good balance between light hearted scenes, comedy and some touching moments when the situation calls for it.
Mother Game still has another finale next week before ending. I’ll write up another review for the finale. But for now, I’d just like to briefly go through all the episodes from ep4-ep9. Why am I so amused by this show? What makes it different? Is this drama for you?
To make things simpler and more organized, I’ll break it up into character analysis and their growth throughout the drama.
Kiko Kamahara + Haruto
The lead of our show who got thrust into the foreign world of rich and high class mothers. From ep4 till ep9, she’s presented different emotions and while her character has mostly stayed the same, the development is sufficient. Right from the start, she’s the straightforward type of person who would voice out her dissatisfaction and can’t hold it in if she sees someone in trouble. Her urge to help others are admirable and definitely one of her most charming points. Throughout the show, she’s been helping the other mothers namely Satoko, Midori and her friend, Yuki who were struggling with their family matters.
Kiko is definitely my favorite character and it’s not hard to see why. Kiko plays the most important role and undeniably the drive force of the show. She gets to lecture the mothers and point out what they’ve done wrong. A lot of great messages, advice and great quotes come from her. However, at the same time, Kiko is not perfect. She has flaws too.
For example, she lied to her son that his father has died but in reality, he has not. Of course, that’s to protect Haruto since his father is a useless bum. I’m glad she showed growth by finally accepting that the return of her ex-husband is not such a bad thing afterall. She also told Haruto the truth. There was a moment of slump as well when Haruto wishes to study in a prestigious school that requires lots of money. So she took on night jobs and caused Haruto to be lonely. In the process, she sort of lost sight of what’s truly precious for her (ep 8). That was solved also later on when she realized she has neglected Haruto and returned to her usual routine.
Satoko + Yuuki
Satoko is the first one to show hostility towards Kiko back in the first few episodes. It took her character quite long to warm up to Kiko. Satoko has a very strict mother-in-law who controls everything from what their family should eat, do and of course, forcing her grandson, Yuuki to the corner. The monster mother-in-law also punishes Satoko. Outside of the house, Satoko is the leader of the pack of wolves. She orchestrated a few bullying towards Kiko.
However this begins to change when Kiko, despite all the things done to her, helps her (notably in ep 4). However, her problem with the mother-in-law doesn’t get solved until further on (around ep 7). Again, thanks to Kiko who is the only one who dares to speak up against that mother-in-law. Satoko’s case is the prime example of having a troublesome mother-in-law that every woman fears when they marry.
Midori + Rika
Midori’s plot is the kind that involves a cheating husband. Her husband is having an affair and although she has suspected it a while ago, she tries to be patient and turns a blind eye. However, when she finds them both in the house on day, she meets her limit and things start to escalate from there. In cases like these, the child is always the victim. Parents fighting for custody and whatnot. Midori finds solace in Rika’s soccer coach who likes her. When her husband forbids her from meeting Rika, Midori is torn and I personally do feel sympathy towards her character. It’s slightly similar to how Kiko doesn’t want her ex-husband to meet Haruto.
Ep 6 is a highlight and the confrontation between Kiko and her husband is amazingly done. I love the script especially the part where Kiko tells him that not every woman can be a perfect mother just because she’s given birth to a child. If the child is 5 years old, then the woman has only become a mother for 5 years. Each and everyday is a learning process for a mother. There are lines that just hit you with sudden realization and this is one of those. Up until ep 9, Midori finally finds a job and takes legal action against her cheating husband. The divorce is finalized and she manages to hold custody of Rika.
There’s also a hint that she might end up with the coach. For Midori, things are certainly looking fine, at least that’s what we see in ep 9.
Yuki + Sakurako
Yuki and Kiko’s friendship has lots of ups and downs. The downs are mostly due to Yuki’s denial and jealousy towards Kiko. Kiko on the other hand, never holds any grudge against her even though Yuki is part of the group that bullies her initially. Yuki is not rich but pretends to be. She lies about her wealth and finds herself in a huge debt after loaning money in order to let her daughter Sakurako sit for exam.
She needs money to pay Sakurako’s tuition fees and whatnot. She is also afraid to take up part-time jobs because the other mothers might see her and her lies would be known. It’s all about money, money and money with her character. She gets herself into trouble chasing for money, including, almost filming indecent videos if not for Kiko who makes it in time to drag her ass out of there. She definitely has Kiko a lot to thank for. Their friendship is quite beautifully done in ep 8. Their confrontation finally awakens Yuki and she finally makes up with Kiko. That pool scene is great, I love it. Until ep 9, although Yuki has changed for better, it doesn’t erase her debt so that part still haunts her. We’ll have to wait for the finale to see how that goes.
Marie + Makoto + Akira
Marie has a hikikomori son who she keeps as secret from everybody. Throughout the show, glimpses of Akira (the hikikomori son) can be seen from time to time but it isn’t until around ep8-9 that his case is focused a lot upon. Marie’s problem is I think, the final case for the show. The ending of ep 9 is chilling and so touching. I shed a tear during the confrontation between Marie and Akira.
Akira is suffering, most probably from stress and there’s something about that intersection where Kiko always see him standing on. Kiko has tried to reach out to Marie, various times but has so far been shut out. So we’ll have to see whether Kiko is able to stop Marie from killing her own son (as seen at the ending of ep 9).
There are also some minor characters that make the drama even more fun. For example, the Ward Officer who appears in the beginning of every single episode. Kiko basically visits him frequently to keep track of how many people left in queue for the free nursery/day care. Kiko has not given up on sending Haruto to day care it seems even though he has spent a semester in Shizuku Kindergarten. The short chats are mostly for comedy and they referenced quite a few things like that Hama-chan show (I think), Tamagotchi (game), Heidi, Anpanman (anime) and so forth.
Koji Seto acts as Haruto’s teacher. His mother is the Director of Shizuku Kindergarten and he has very proper manner and takes good care of the reputation of the school. He was against Kiko and Haruto’s enrollment initially as they’re both from a totally different world than the rich mothers. However, he started to warm up to Kiko and although he still thinks she’s troublesome, he shows concern in the later episodes. He even encourages her (ep 9) to go tackle Marie’s problem. The awkwardness in his interaction with Kiko is funny.
And just a special mention of Kiko’s co-worker Kun-chan. He’s socially awkward and shy. He doesn’t appear much but does show his usefulness in some cases when he gives some advice to Kiko. He also takes care of the shop when Kiko needs to attend Haruto’s events. Then there’s Kiko’s Grandpa.
The dog outside Kiko’s shop! Hanpen appears and while he doesn’t do anything, it’s still a pleasure to watch his antics.
Is this drama worth watching?
In my honest opinion, yes. Like I said, I have a thing for family drama type of genre so I probably am a little bit biased but I’d say, give at least the first episode a try. I watched it without any expectation but I was impressed and I ended up chasing it. However, if you’re not into kids and couldn’t care less about the struggles of mothers and family issues, then it might not be for you.
What I like about this show?
Of course the characters! Needless to say, Kiko Kamahara is my favorite and without her, it might be quite boring. Kiko is a joy to watch. She can be quite clumsy, a few airhead kind of moments and that brings out the fun side of her. The more serious or heartwarming moments come when she steps up and voices her opinions, she’s got most of the best lines/quotes. Every episode is quite an eye-opener. The other side characters are quite well developed too. They have episodes dedicated for them. The production is quite good. The camerawork especially. Slow-motions and close-ups, I have a weak spot for those.The OST is nice and fitting. Superfly’s song, Beautiful is a pleasant theme song. I also enjoy watching the kids, they’re cute, especially Haruto.
Lastly, I truly enjoyed this show. I never got bored with any episode and I even rewatched some. Also, honorable mention to Fumino Kimura because she really impressed me this time. I never quite notice her in her previous works where she just served as supporting characters. This is probably her first lead role, if I’m not mistaken, and she does a great job. So much so that I hope she gets more lead roles in the future. This is without a doubt, her breakthrough. Hopefully, more people will get to know her from this drama.
I will post another review for the finale next week. I really don’t want this show to end.